The last-minute loss of Mamby on the Beach left some Chicago-area music fans clamoring for the bass beats and the bright and colorful EDM experience they were looking forward to this August. Enter North Coast, the two-day music fest that is here to scratch that itch Friday and Saturday, Aug. 30 and 31.
The 10th anniversary edition sees the festival settling into new digs at the Huntington Bank Pavilion on Northerly Island, but the core of North Coast remains the same: Fans soaking up the shared energy at the feet of performers compelling them to dance with hypnotic rhythms and mesmerizing visual displays.
To that end, Bassnectar makes a return to town with a headlining slot Friday, Major Lazer takes the spot Saturday, and the rest of the lineup is packed tight with standouts and favorites, including Gorgon City, Flux Pavilion, JAUZ, Dirt Monkey, Jai Wolf, Tchami and others.
But peppered throughout are names fans might recognize from home stages, a testament to the talent coming up through Chicago’s ranks.
ALIGN, Schaumburg-raised music producer James Fisher, kicks off the fest with a 2:30 p.m. Friday performance on the main Pavilion stage.
Fisher, who had been attending live shows as a kid, said he found the electronic shows very enticing, in part because of the energy and the massive visual components involved.
“I wanted to do that,” he said. “That feeling I got when I was in the crowd, I wanted to be the person on stage providing that for people, to have people feel that with my music.”
Drawing from his musical training on drum line at Conant High School and some acoustic guitar (“I had a knack for rhythms, beats and melodies.”), Fisher started producing his own original pieces halfway through his college years at the University of Iowa.
Scoring an opening slot on a show at Schubas not long after, he now plays DJ sets pretty regularly in and around Chicago. “I also have live sets where I play my own music and do some live drumming on an electronic pad along with it,” he said. “It adds a whole new element to the show. With electronic music, sometimes there’s a stigma about performers just pressing play, so it’s exciting when people can add that live element.”
Fisher, who dropped the new single “I’ll Get There (Summer Edit)” Wednesday and has music that will be featured in upcoming TV shows, is making his first appearance at North Coast this year after having attended several times. He’ll also play an aftershow Saturday night (Gorgon City, SG Lewis, ALIGN: 11 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31, at House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn St., Chicago. $25 at houseofblues.com.).
“I went last year to network with some people … and said ‘It’d be great to play this a year from now.’ Luckily it all just fell into place really nicely,” he said. “I love what they curate, so it’s really exciting to be part of it now.”
Stratus (otherwise known as Chicago’s Patrick Stratton), on the other hand, returns for his fourth set at North Coast.
What started off as a passion for groove-oriented music, with a focus on classic rock and metal in his teens, exploded when Stratton discovered dubstep in 2009.
“I thought ‘This is what I’ve been looking for the whole time,'” he said. “I’ve never had a moment like that again. This is the music I was searching for. I wanted to be a part of this, to dig deeper, and eventually making it was the ultimate connection to be part of that world.”
Up to that point, the music producer, who attended DePaul after studying at the Chicago Academy for the Arts, had mostly performed on stage with school ensembles. “Electronic music was the first time I took performance seriously,” Stratton said. “I wanted to make it more than just a school requirement. I should do something, I can do something.”
“I realized I wanted to be every member of the band and control every element of the process,” he said. “I think that’s why music production was so appealing to me. It was a way for me to see a project all the way through. And the music spoke to me a little bit more.”
Stratus has rolled that creativity and sense of detail into an ever-growing name on the music scene. He’ll be playing two sets on Friday — 3:30 p.m. on the Hangar Stage and a back-to-back set with INZO at 8 p.m. on the GoodBus.
“I love the pop-up stages appearing more at big festivals,” he said. “It’s a good juxtaposition to the high-stakes main stage sets fests present.”
On Saturday, watch for Naperville twins Bryan and Jon Gorecki in Birthdayy Partyy to take the Hangar Stage at 4:30 p.m.
With the slogan “It’s Always Someone’s Birthdayy,” the bass-house duo aims to keep it fun.
“There’s always a reason to celebrate something,” Jon said. “There’s always a reason to be happy and party.”
Starting with guitar training and branching into other areas — Bryan on additional instruments and Jon in the lighting and sound aspects of theatrical stagecraft — the duo started forming its musical identity under a shared love of dubstep.
“It was so different from all the music we were listening to growing up, classic rock and pop-punk, sprinkle a little metal in there,” Jon said. “Now here’s this thing called dubstep that’s totally different from everything else we’ve been listening to our whole lives. The first time you hear Skrillex, you’re like, ‘What is this? That’s not a guitar. That’s not a drum set. What are these sounds?'”
“As we got more into the electronic and night life industry at NIU (Northern Illinois University), we were exposed to a lot of house music from people who were playing around Chicago,” Bryan said. “It kind of merged with our bass-music upbringing, the bassy-house music fusion we’re at right now. Going more into adulthood, we started to pull influences from different nostalgic periods, whether it be the disco-y-funk house music is really influenced by or the cheeky throwback mid-2000s remixes we like to do.”
With a trial run at 2018’s Spring Awakening and previous North Coast visits with other projects, Birthdayy Partyy — which released the new “Pajama Time” last week and is also playing an official aftershow at Concord Music Hall Saturday (Tchami, Birthdayy Partyy and Ayoo: 11 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31, at Concord Music Hall, 2051 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago. $36.50 at concordmusichall.com) — is making its first North Coast appearance as a team this weekend.
“It’s awesome to play here,” Jon said. “We have such a great support network here, and so many friends here who support what we do. We couldn’t do any of this without them.”
• • •
North Coast Music Festival
When: Friday and Saturday, Aug. 30-31
Where: Huntington Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island, 1300 S. Linn White Drive, Chicago
Tickets: Various tiers and packages available; single-day general admission tickets start at $37.99 plus fees; see northcoastfestival.com for details.